Just a few years ago, Qatar was the world’s undisputed leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. But a major wave of LNG capacity construction in Australia over the past decade and a slew of export projects in the United States have started to reshuffle the supply picture in one of the hottest commodity markets.
Over the past year, on two occasions Australia exported more LNG than Qatar on a monthly basis. The last project of the first wave of Australia’s LNG facilities since 2012 began production and exports two months ago. As the LNG facilities in Australia ramp up production and exports and reach full capacity, Australia will consistently export more LNG than Qatar within the next year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says.
Australia will be the next top LNG exporter, but it is likely to retain that title for a brief period of time as both Qatar and the United States plan major expansions in their LNG export capacities over the next five years.
Australia’s last project of the first wave of LNG capacity construction, Shell’s Prelude, started shipping gas in June this year.
As the project ramps up and exports increase, Australia will be the number-one exporter of LNG in the world. It has already outpaced Qatar in terms of export capacity, the EIA says.
Qatar, for its part, is not sitting idle—it has announced plans to increase its LNG production capacity by 43 percent—from 77 million tons annually now to 110 million tons a year. The new export capacity includes expansion projects set to be completed in 2024.
Qatar and Australia will be competing for grabbing shares on the fastest-growing LNG market, China. The United States, with its major expansion of export facilities, may miss opportunities in China if the U.S.-China trade war protracts.
Yet, there are several LNG projects in the U.S. that have already been approved, which would make America have the world’s largest LNG export capacity, surpassing both Qatar and Australia, by 2025, the EIA said last month.
This year, the United States became the world’s third-largest LNG exporter, surpassing Malaysia. The U.S. is expected to remain the third-largest LNG exporter in the world, behind Australia and Qatar, in 2019 and 2020, the EIA estimates.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the United States will surpass Australia as the world’s leading LNG exporter by 2024. Australia, for its part, will have surpassed Qatar by 2022, the IEA said in its Gas 2019 report.
In the shorter-term, “Australia and Qatar continued to jostle for the title of the world’s largest LNG exporter over the first five months of 2019,” Australia’s government said in its Resources and Energy Quarterly in June 2019.
Australia took the lead in April as Qatar’s exports declined due to maintenance at some facilities, but Qatar edged back past Australia in May, the government’s report said, noting that Australia and Qatar will be neck and neck in the race for the world’s top LNG exporter in 2019.
Australia will be at some point the largest LNG exporter, but for just a few years.
“During the mid-2020s, Australia is expected to be surpassed as the world’s largest LNG exporter by both Qatar and the US, as new projects in both countries come online,” the Australian government said in June.
A new global wave of LNG projects is coming over the next five years, geared to meet growing demand in the Asian market, in China in particular. China is and will be the key driver of demand growth and the world’s top LNG exporters will be vying for market share on the key demand markets. Australia, Qatar, and the United States are in for a tense competition for the largest LNG exporter crown.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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